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Thursday, June 30, 2005

New Jewish Education Proposal

Interesting topic in all the local papers, concerning the high cost of Yeshiva tuition, and how some parents are proposing that Orthodox parents utilize the public school system. A group of parents is spearheading this effort, which apparently stems from their frustration at paying high property taxes to finance the public schools, and then having to factor in the high cost of enrolling their children in a Yeshiva. Barring any church-state violations, they are proposing a system where the kids would attend minyan at a local shul, be picked up by schoolbuses there, and transported to the public schools for a day of secular studies. They would then have a full day's religious education after the public schools are dismissed. According to the Five Towns Jewish Times, instead of paying $6,000 to upwards of $10,000 a year in tuition, the cost for the religious education part of the school day would hover somewhere in the $1,500 to $2,500 range. They are also asking for acommodations, according to the FTJT article, including keeping the Orthodox children clustered together in the same classes so they can socialize with those of the same background.

I find this an intriguing proposal. Though I can't imagine this program pulling many, if any kids out of the more right-wing Yeshivas, it's possible that parents from the more Modern Orthodox schools might find the price break alluring. But the problems with this proposal seem looming. First of all, the legality has not yet been ascertained. From the Herald article:
One important question is whether the partnership would violate the principle of the separation of church and state. Lawrence school officials said there are no religious groups currently using their school buildings for religious instruction. If the district were to allow it, it would have to provide the same opportunities to other religious groups, school officials said. They said they would check with their attorneys to determine the legal details.
Jack Feldman, an attorney for the schools, said the plan may be a violation of church-and-state laws and needs more investigation. He plans to discuss it with the school board and then offer his opinion.
There are other issues as well. Even one parent from the group spearheading this effort admits that "as the children get older the public school environment may be a little more challenging for them," and he "concedes that perhaps this idea would only work up to fourth or fifth grade". And of course, unsurprisingly, one of the parents said he has met with Orthodox rabbis in the area to present the idea, and apparently has met with resistance. "We expect our proposal to run into some opposition in the religious community and with the rabbis," he said. Rabbi Zalman Wolowik, the local Chabad Rabbi, spoke out against the idea in the FTJT article:
[He] said he did in fact meet with about 20 parents and made it very clear that he would not assist in or facilitate the movement of children from the yeshivas to a public school setting. "I don't think that this is the way to imbue children these days with the values and instruction that has been handed down to us from generation to generation" he said.

The truth is, the high cost of Yeshiva tuition has been such a major gripe in the Orthodox community for a long time now. In my opinion, it was only a matter of time before some people just gave up on the struggle and looked for another option. Though I am personally not a proponent of pulling kids out of the Yeshiva system, maybe this will give those involved in the Yeshivas a kick in the pants to do something equally creative as this group has about the skyrocketing costs of Yeshiva tuition. It's time to read the writing on the wall.

Packing Peeve

I don't usually post as the Mom half of OrthoMom, but I feel the need to let people in on what has been consuming much of my time these past few weeks. Getting the kids' trunks packed for sleepaway camp is a job-and-a-half. It seems like they need a heck of a lot more stuff than we did when we went away to camp, way back in the dark ages. And don't even think about purchasing any of it without the kids in tow. Not just any sleeping bag, clip-on fan, basketball shorts, flashlight - even shampoo - will do. I mean, how can I even think of sending our kids off to camp with the wrong kind of flashlight? And make them the laughingstock of their bunk?
Anyone else out there have hand cramps from writing the same names over and over with a laundry marker?
Anyone elso shocked by how much it cost, and how many stores you had to vist to get the kids outfitted for camp - the right way?
Anyone else up until all hours of the night because it was impossible to get anything done with all the kids home on vacation?
I'd love a shout-out.

NYJW Follow-Up

A follow-up to this story, which seems to agree with my take.

Meet you at the "Just Desserts" Cafe

This is hysterically funny:
Could a hotel be built on the land owned by Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter? A new ruling by the Supreme Court which was supported by Justice Souter himself itself might allow it. A private developer is seeking to use this very law to build a hotel on Souter's land.
Justice Souter's vote in the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.
On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter's home.
Best line:
The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."
Very creative. Serves him right. The ruling is horrendous. As I've heard it stated, it's like "Robin Hood in reverse". Taking from the poor to give to the rich.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Sad But True

Great piece by Rob Borsellino about the asinine stories the media chooses to bombard us with, at the expense of the news that might be more important. From the column:
For years I've felt like this country is dumbing down, losing touch with what's important.

About a month ago, I thought I had the defining moment.

A woman on TV was shown a picture of the U.S. secretary of state and - with complete self confidence - she identified her as "Mona Lisa Rice."

I was sure we had bottomed out...
I knew that Tom Cruise got engaged to Katie Holmes at the top of the Eiffel Tower, and I'd be able to pick Jackson's lawyer out of a crowd.

But I couldn't name the assistant secretary of defense - even in a time of war.

I knew the exact time Terri Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago, and I could tell you that the runaway bride got a half-million-dollar advance to tell her story.

But I had lost track of how many U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq.

But as the writer then points out, does anyone really want to hear about the Bolton deadlock all day, every day?


More on the NY Jewish Week

Steven I. over at Canonist has gotten his hands on a letter sent out by the NY Jewish Week to elected officials in New York, asking for written endorsements of their paper by these officials. From the letter:
Because you are a vitally concerned leader involved in the well being of all New Yorkers, as well as an individual who has lent supporters on issues affecting the Jewish community, I have a request.
We are currently creative informative materials to tell subscribers and advertisers more about The Jewish Week and your support would be of tremendous importance to us.
Could you take a moment to share your impressions of the paper with us? We would be honored to include your comments — along with the others received — in these promotional efforts. I have included a recent issue of the paper as well as a copy of Directions, our Annual Guide to Jewish Life In New York.
This whole idea would seem ridiculous, if it didn't stink so badly. I understand newspapers endorsing elected officials, but the reverse? What, pray tell, does the elected official receive in exchange for his kind words about the publication? Gary Rosenblatt sparing him the miserable treatment he usually reserves for a select group of whipping boys? Rosenblatt's promise not to try to ruin the cooperating elected official's career or chances of reelection by promising not to publish article after article that establishes facts out of the whole cloth of innuendo and anonymous allegations? Sound like it's all in a day's work for the NYJW.

My Memories of Gush Katif

Very moving article in today's JPost remembering Yamit, and comparing Israel's withdrawal from it to the disengagement in Gaza. I remember visiting Gush Katif as a teenager on a summer tour of Israel, and being taken by our tour guide to "kir Yamit", the wall that memorializes the pullout from the community. As he described the evacuation of Yamit, and the dramatic events that unfolded there, it never would have occured to any of us listening that years later, we would be discussing the neighborhoods, beaches and greenhouses we had just visited in the same vein.
I remember the Gush Katif leg of the tour as one of the highlights of our trip that summer. The greenhouses were fascinating. The science junkie in me was interested by the hydroponic techniques, the aesthete in me was amazed by the neatly planted rows of plants and vegetables. The beach was beautiful. I can still remember how the temperature of the water was almost as warm as the air, and how gentle the surf was against the whitest sand this New Yorker had ever seen. The white houses with the red roofs and the gardens were immaculate, many having gone up recently, with bikes and toys on the front lawns, as little children roamed from house to house with no need for supervision. It truly seemed an idyllic existence for the settlers who built their lives there.
Now, as I read the articles like yesterday's, about the lack of adequate housing for the displaced, and today's, which describes the first settler to dismantle his greenhouses in preparation for the disengagement, I feel for these people who thought that they were home for good.

May God grant them a smooth and safe journey.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Heroine of the Day

Today's heroine is Dona Gracia Nasi.

Born in 1510, thirteen years after the Inquisition expelled all Jews from Spain, she grew up in Portugal with her family of Marranos - Jews who lived outwardly as Christians, but secretly as Jews. Her Christian name was Beatrice de Luna. She married Fransisco Mendes, whose wealthy family also fled Spain to Portugal. She was widowed at the young age of 26, at which time she went to live in Antwerp, joining her brother-in-law's family who had set up a business there. There, she used her family's wealth and connections to help other Marranos flee from the Portugese Inquisition. When her brother-in-law died in 1542, she inherited control of his business and the family fortune. While running the business successfully, she continued to put herself in danger by helping secret Jews escape. She was arrested once for her efforts, but managed to escape through the connections she had made as a successful businesswoman. She then fled Antwerp to Venice with her family, running from the rulers of the Inquisition who were trying to halt the rescue work she was doing, as well as get their hands on her fortune. The family continued to move throughout Europe, finally finding haven in Turkey. There, she was able to live freely as a Jew. She promptly changed her name back to Gracia Nasi, and began to live openly as a Jew. From Turkey, Nasi continued to help huge numbers of Marranos escape. She also used her wealth to become a patroness of Jewish scholars and supported the building of printing presses to disseminate Jewish works. She was a charitable woman, and was storied to have fed eighty paupers a day from her home.

Nasi risked her life both to help save those of other Jews, and to live her own life openly as a Jew. Living in America today, where the law protect our rights to practice our religion to the extent that it does, it's hard to imagine what life must have been like for these Marranos. It's harder still to imagine risking everything, as Gracia Nasi did, to be able to perform the mitzvot we take for granted every day.

For more information on this truly heroic woman, who brought so many Jews out of a life of fear and secrecy, see here and here.


This article makes the housing plan for those displaced by the disengagement seem woefully inadequate.
Meanwhile, settlers are discovering that the temporary housing in Nitzan will entail pretty rough living conditions. "This trailer is the size of my dining room," said G., a prospective resident...
How very depressing for these people. Especially since they are leaving behind such beautiful homes to be destroyed.
I think a lot of the sympathy that should be felt for these settlers is being lost in the political battle between the pro- and anti-disengagement camps. One doesn't have to be anti-disengagement to understand how horrible it must be for anyone to be uprooted from the place they have called home for so long and put down indefinitely in a trailer park.


This story is notable, not just for the obvious lapse in ethics by the father who helped his son cheat, but also because of the absolute stupidity the father/som team displayed in cheating in such an amateur fashion. If you're going to steal the answers to a test, at least minimize the chances of getting caught by not writing them on your hand in ink.

Another Day, Another Dispute

Interesting article in NY Mag about a Lubavitch Rabbi, Rabbi Rafe Konikov, and his attempts to start a shul in the blue-blood bastion of Southampton. I feel like every week there's another shul or yeshiva in the news, over trying to build amid outcry from their non-Jewish or non-Orthodox neighbors. I can see the neighbors' arguments, but the story clearly describes the street that the Rabbi is building on as a busy one. One neighbor, who has voiced some of the most vocal opposition, lives much closer to a gas station than to the proposed "Shteeble". Most absurd complaint by the neighbors about the shul (among a litany of them):
One lawyer for the plaintiffs mentions “restaurant service” that took place at the Chabad in April.

“A seder?!” Chani Konikov yelps, incensed.
Another is the neighbors' complaint that the shul has been disturbing the peace by using a PA system for prayers - on Shabbos. Obviously, there is plenty of misunderstanding to go around here. We'll see how this resolves.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Back Up

I'm happy to note that Steven I. Weiss's religion blog, Canonist, is back up. It's been sorely missed in the blogosphere during Weiss's battle with his servers.

Heroine of the Day

Thanks to Rebecca for calling today's very worthy Heroine of the Day to my attention.

Today's heroine is Bertha Pappenheim, a woman who overcame many personal obstacles to make a huge contribution to improving the social and economic position of Jewish women in her world. Born into a wealthy Viennese Orthodox family in 1859, Bertha was struck with a debilitating psychological disorder that caused paralysis. Through psychoanalysis, she was able to recover almost completely. She became interested in feminism, and through her studies, came to realize the lack of social infrastructure that existed for women in the German Jewish community. She decided to combine her interests in feminism and her identity as a Jewish woman with her concern for social justice. In 1902, she founded the Care for Women Society (Weibliche Fuersorge), which provided child care education for mothers, employment opportunities and vocational training for women, and placement for foster children. As a representative of the organization, she traveled throughout the Middle East, Russia and Europe, and became concerned with the plight of prostitutes and homeless women. She created the Juedischer Frauenbund in 1904 to campaign against prostitution and the white slave trade, and work to enhance legal protection for women. It also advocated for women's civil and religious rights.

Bertha traveled constantly and tirelessly, visiting brothels and consulting with police and social workers to improve the lot of these women sold into prostitution and slavery. She campaigned forcefully among the male leadership of these communities, urging them to deal with these problems faced by Jewish women. In 1907, she founded Isenberg, Europe's first Jewish shelter and group home for single mothers and their children and for girls escaping prostitution. Pappenheim published two pamphlets in 1910 that correlated poor educational opportunities with poverty among Jewish girls: "The Jewish problem in Galicia" and "On the Condition of the Jewish Population in Galicia." After she gave up the presidency of the Juedischer Frauenbund due to declining health, she continued to author and publish many pamphlets, plays and other writings dedicated to publicizing the plight of these women. In addition, she went on to translate many Jewish works including the Five Megillot, Tze'enah Ure'enah, and the Haftarot.

In 1936, Bertha's life was tragically cut short after a strenuous interrogation with the Gestapo about a anti-Hitler remark. Her obituary, which she wrote herself, read: "In 1904, she founded the Juedischer Frauenbund-its importance is not yet fully understood. The Jews of the entire world-men and women-owe her thanks for this social achievement. But they withhold it. What a pity!"

We certainly do not withhold the thanks today for her many achievements.
A more detailed biography of this amazing woman can be found here.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Vaccine/Autism Correlation?

Interesting piece in the NYT about autism and it's possible connection to childhood vaccinations. I can understand how those parents affected by autism would be reluctant to vaccinate their children. I've heard the case made that the thimerosal used as a preservative in vaccines contains mercury, which has been posited as a cause of autism and related disorders. But although the thought of taking the slightest chance of putting my children at risk for autism makes me very nervous, I can't see myself taking the not-so-slight risk of not immunizing my children. Too many ER episodes of children dying from measles, I guess. Maybe if the data would show more conclusively that the preservative is a cause for autism, like autism rates in England (where thimerosal has been banned) going down significantly, I might feel otherwise. Right now it just seems to be based on speculation. Your thoughts?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Heroine of the Day

One of the reasons I'm loving this feature so much is that I'm getting a chance to do some really fascinating research on women I've either never heard of before, of never though that much about. One thing I've realized is that there is no dearth of courageous Jewish women throughout history. The only trouble I'm having with this feature each time is choosing one. Anyway, without further ado, my Heroine of the Day.

Today we remember a great Torah scholar, Nechama Leibowitz. Russian born, she received a doctorate in Bible Studies from the University of Berlin before she made aliyah. She taught at the Mizrachi Women's Teachers' Seminar in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, and Hesder yeshivot. Nechama Leibowitz is best known, though, for her weekly parsha "pages" (gilyonot in hebrew) of questions that she stenciled and mailed to tens of thousands of students from all different observance levels and affiliations all over the world, . These guides to the Torah helped students examine and interpret the text more closely and were eventually published as study guides for parshat hashavua (the weekly Torah portions). They also won her the Israel Prize in 1957 for revolutionizing Torah study. Nechama Leibowitz would lecture regularly to groups of women and men, but remained modest and unassuming, insisting that her students call her "Nechama". Indeed, she insisted that her gravestone read simply: Nechama Leibowitz, morah (teacher). She is roundly recognized as a female pioneer in the study of the Torah, a devoted and effective educator, and a true role model for generations of Jewish women.
Here are more resources on Nechama Leibowitz's life, and here are some of her writings and teachings.

Too Funny

This oughta make at least a few of you laugh...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

What's Good for the Goose...

This is funny:
Yesterday, Karl Rove said at a GOP fundraiser that Democratic Senator Dick Durbin's remarks comparing the interrogators' tactics at Guantanamo Bay to that of the Nazis were "putting our troops in greater danger" because Al Jazeera "now broadcasts [his] words to the Mideast." Today, the Republican National Committee released a new ad, titled "Wild Thing", featuring just those words by Senator Durbin. I'd have to imagine that Al Jazeera would have a good chance of seeing Durbin's words at GOP.com. So I guess the GOP is now "broadcasting Durbin's words to the Mideast."

(hat tip)

Listen for a Good Cause

I don't usually dabble in music reviews, but someone told me about this and I though it worth a mention. A new J-Music album called "Believe" has been released. It is, as the tag line on the jewel box reads: "A collection of songs for women, by women, in support of women." Which means that all of the vocalists are women, all the proceeds are going to benefit a womens' charity, and (I think) it also means that, as the vocalists are Orthodox women, they assume it will be listened to by women, as many (but by no means all) Orthodox men interpret the admonition against "kol isha" to mean recordings as well.
The organization it benefits is Sharsheret, which is "a non-profit organization of cancer survivors dedicated to addressing the unique challenges facing young Jewish women living with breast cancer." The organization provides support in many different ways to women affected by breast cancer and their families. More information here on their wonderful website.
The album itself is extremely professionally done. The lead vocalist, Suffy Rudman, has an exquisite voice, though a few of the songs, especially the english ones, are a bit too bubble-gum pop for my alternarock tastes. The hebrew songs are just beautiful. Definitely worth a listen, especially as your purchase goes towards such a worthy cause.

Amnesty's Outrageous Outrage

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Desperate Housewives

So this woman hit her husband over the head last week with a set of dumbbells because he "wouldn't stop snoring". This week, a woman pleads guilty to stabbing her husband because she "wanted him to eat in the kitchen, while he insisted on eating in the bedroom". Sick stuff.

Heroine of the Day

Today's Jewish heroine is Rebecca Gratz. She was born in 1781, in Pennsylvania, to a prominent Orthodox Rabbinic family, and went on to dedicate her life to helping those less fortunate than her. She started the Female Association for the Relief of Women and Children of Reduced Circumstances in Philadelphia when she was only 20 years old. She also went on to found the Philadelphia Orphan Asylum, chartered in 1815, the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society in 1819, and the Jewish Foster Home and Orphan Asylum in 1855. She was on the leadership boards of all of these organizations throughout her life. When her sister Rachel, died in 1823, Rebecca took her six children in to her home and raised them as her own.

As Christian missionaries became more active in America, Rebecca began to fear that the less educated Jews in her community were becoming a target for them. She believed one way to counter this was to provide a religious education for as many Jews as possible. Using the very successful Christian Sunday School model, she created the Hebrew Sunday School Society of Philadelphia in 1818. The school was open, free of charge, to all Jewish children from the Philadelphia area. She then counseled women in many other Jewish communities on creating similar schools there.

Rebecca was extremely educated and literate, especially for an Orthodox Jewish woman of her era. She was a member of an elite circle of writers, that included Washington Irving and James Kirk Paulding. She was always involved in American politics.

Many of the institutions that she founded operated well into the 20th century. Look here or here for more information on Rebecca Gratz, this paradigm of charitable deeds who was truly ahead of her times.

Sounds Suspicious to Me...

Check this wording out:
Wafa al-Bass (L), 21, a Palestinian woman arrested on suspicion of being a suicide bomber, is escorted by an Israeli policewoman at Sikma prison in the city of Ashkelon June 20, 2005. Israeli soldiers apprehended a Palestinian suicide bomber on Monday as she tried to enter Israel through Gaza's Erez border crossing with explosives packed into an undergarment, the army said. The woman, a burns victim, had permission to travel to the southern Israeli city of Beersheba for medical treatment...

Um, yeah. I would have my suspicions, too, about someone with explosives packed into her underwear.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Heroine of The Day

Apropos of both this thread and this one of many inane comments regarding a woman's place, I am going to suspend my C.T.O.T.D. feature, and start up a new one. My Jewish Heroine of the Day feature. I'd like to start with Recha Sternbuch. She was an Orthodox Jewish woman with small children, who worked tirelessly, at great peril to herself and her whole family, to save countless Jews from becoming victims of the Holocaust. She missed the Shabbos Bar Mitzvah of her son to negotiate for the release of Jewish refugees from being sent back to Germany and almost certain death. She crossed the border, at great risk of her own deportation, from her home in Switzerland to Nazi-occupied France to argue for and ultimately gain the release of twelve Jews from being deported. For the full story, see this, as well as the segment about her in the movie "Unlikely Heroes". Her story makes me feel inadequate, living my little old life.


I do understand this decision. I can see why the settlers would not want to see Palestinian flags flying over their homes, and why the homes themselves do not meet the needs of the overcrowded Palestinians. But doesn't spending 50 to 60 million dollars to raze these perfectly beautiful homes seem like an awful waste?

Downing Street Memos: Fake But Accurate

The eight memos — all labeled "secret" or "confidential" — were first obtained by British reporter Michael Smith, who has written about them in The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times.

Smith told AP he protected the identity of the source he had obtained the documents from by typing copies of them on plain paper and destroying the originals.

The AP obtained copies of six of the memos (the other two have circulated widely). A senior British official who reviewed the copies said their content appeared authentic. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secret nature of the material.

So this story is based on retyped copies of destroyed originals seen by one person? It's not even that I'm skeptical that they existed, but you'd have to imagine that with all of the people around who would be, it might be wise to keep the originals around in a safe deposit box or something. How are we to accept a story based on copies of alleged memos and confirmation from an anonymous "senior British official" after the whole National Guard Memo fiasco? Someone's gotta do better than this before this gains any more momentum.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Proof Postive

Ah. Just as I've suspected all along.
Best line:
The remains will be studied exhaustively for evidence of the leather harnessing used to secure Noah's sons for their long transcontinental journeys.


C. T. O. T. D.

I was thinking about giving up on this feature, but it's just too delicious.
Today's goodie:
Heimishe and Shiksa car accident on 14th Avenue and 56th Street
A Heimishe guy in a 4x4 and a Shiksa in a sporty coupe were both stopped perpendicular from each other at an all-way stop sign at the corner of 14th Avenue and 56th Street, when the coupe all of a sudden shot ahead hitting the 4x4 then careening into the light poll at the opposite corner. The coupe then turned to the left from the impact and kept on going. The coupe nearly smashed into a parked car on the Avenue before coming to a stop. Hatzolah was at the scene within seconds and treated the woman from the coupe. The 4x4 driver was apparently unharmed. A Hatzolah member flagged down a Police car that was passing by. A couple of moments later an Auxiliary Police car with three Auxiliary Police Officers, two of them being Heimish, passed by and began chatting with some of the people standing around with a thick Yiddishe accent. Apparently 'Aless iz geven A-vun okay uff der scene'.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Bar Mitzvah Madness

I was speaking to a friend recently, and the conversation, as it is wont to do among orthodox parents, turned to the topic of the exorbitant cost of jewish school tuition. We were wryly commiserating on the hell of paying out such a large chunk of our take-home pay to educate our children. I thought we were on the same page. Then she made a comment that blew my mind. "I'm spending almost as much in tuition this year as it's costing to make my son's weekend Bar Mitzvah!"

SCREEECH. CRASH. The conversation came to a dead halt. I was truly speechless. These friends, it seems, are spending upwards of $30,000 on a BAR MITZVAH.

Now lets be clear. I am well aware that the topic of extravagant, outlandishly opulent Bar Mitzvahs has been adressed by others. But my point is entirely different. These friends do not live a lavish lifestyle in any other way. Their house is similarly appointed to mine. The cars they drive are not luxury automobiles. They dress in reasonably priced attire. They do not travel to exotic, far-flung locales for vacations. These facts always led me to believe one of two possibilities:
A)They are not rich.
B) They are not show-offs.

But how do either of those possibilities jibe with a $30,000 Bar Mitzvah?

Friday, June 17, 2005

Dumpster Diving: Dangerous

So this woman is threatening to sue because of injuries incurred while rummaging in a Dumpster for empty cans. Apparently, the Dumpster was emptied into a garbage truck while she was in it.
In her words:
Now, Cobb said, she is angry with the company and will consult an attorney.
"They (Waste Management) tried to get me to sign a waiver to say it was not their fault. I said no way," said Cobb. "I'm going to go talk to my lawyer."
A response from the Waste Management Company:
"Obviously, she should not have been in the Dumpster," said Alfano. "There is a caution sign posted. It says, 'Do not play on, around or occupy this container for any purpose.'"
O'Connor said the incident appears to be Cobb's fault. Alfano said the driver would not be cited because he is not at fault.
"It (the Dumpster) is private property. She was trespassing,"
This better not make it to trial.
(hat tip)

C. T. O. T. D.

Hard to choose from such a wealth of material. But here's today's winner:

Heimishe child molester list floating around
There is a new list, detailing the identities of over a dozen Heimishe child molesters being e-mailed around the Heimishe community. The list specifies these offenders names even though they have never been found guilty in a court of law and are not present on the governments offender registry. I wonder who you have to get angry to end up on this list.

I never thought I'd see the words "heimishe" and "child molester" in the same sentence. I would think a child molester would be giving up his right to be called "heimish".


Since I've gotten quite the reputation from my friend DovBear for being a spelling cop, I thought I'd give you this series of amusing links from a self-titled "grammar cop".

Kabbalah Center Expose

Interesting article in Radar Online about Rabbi Philip Berg and the Kabbalah Center, in the first of a series of four. As the article states: “a close look reveals an organization more committed to questionably financial deals and celebrity wrangling than to advancing an ancient Jewish mystical approach to life”. Some of the findings from the expose:

• The Centre’s solicitation of freelance ghostwriters on the website Craigslist, to help the Bergs write “scholarly” books on Kabbalah, some of which the writers are encouraged to model on new-age best-sellers.

• The previously unreported lawsuit that charged Philip Berg with copyright infringement and plagiarism.

• The Centre’s penchant for lending money to companies owned by close friends and associates of the Bergs, including more than $2 million in loans to a company with a P.O. Box address that flips investment properties in such Los Angeles neighborhoods as Compton and Watts.

• The Bergs’ luxurious lifestyle, in stark contrast to the bleak four-to-a-bedroom conditions and $35-a-month stipend they offer the full-time volunteers who cook and clean for them.

• The Centre’s use of cultlike techniques to control members, including sleep deprivation, alienation from friends and family, and Kabbalah-dictated matchmaking.

• The bizarre scientific claims made by the Centre’s leaders on behalf of Kabbalah Water, ranging from its ability to cleanse the lakes of Chernobyl of radiation to its power to cure cancer, AIDS, and SARS.

• The Centre’s sponsorship of the Oroz Research Centre, a “23rd century” scientific institution that markets a “liquid compound for the treatment of nuclear waste” that also cures gynecological problems in cows, sheep, and other farm animals.

• The Bergs’ plan to leverage celebrity congregants to expand the scope of their merchandising, and their failed attempt to lure Madonna to partner with them in a venture to repackage Kabbalah Water for the mass market.

• The Bergs’ explicit strategy of steering Kabbalah away from its Jewish roots in order to appeal to a wider global market, and their plans to brand both the Centre and family members for maximum popular appeal.

Looks like the next three installments are going to make for some fascinating reading as well.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

C. T. O. T. D.

This one's a doozy:

Chassidishe bocher on porch with girl in Boro-Park
There is a Chassidishe bocher that hangs out with a Heimishe Boro-Park girl on the porch of her parents' house in the higher number avenues. They can be seen holding each other openly. Since this house happens to be next to a Yeshiva and the display had been openly visible to the children and bocherim there, the administration asked him to please find another place for his explorations. The bocher ignored the request and is currently continuing as before. I wonder if they met in Williamsburg.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

School Budget Results

In an update to this, the budget was voted down, 3,074 to 2,543.

C. T. O. T. D.

Todays Chaptzem Post Title of the Day:
Chassidim bagleit R' Mordche Dovid
R' Mordche Dovid's Chassidim were out in full force last night to bagleit him home from Shul Motzei Yom Tov. After following him down 15th Avenue until 46th Street, his car turned off and continued towards 16th Avenue. The Chassidim however did not stop there. They continued down 15th Avenue, passing by the Bobover Shul. That was when R' Bentzion's Chassidim came and started shishkening the crowd. R' M. D.'s Chassidim continued quietly with no further incidents taking place.
I can't believe we live in a society where people can't just bagleit without being shishkened. It's really a disgrace.

Update: You absolutely MUST read the comments to this post on Chaptzem.

A New Day, A New Stadium Proposal...

Yeah, all this indecision about which stadium proposal to present for the Olymypics is really gonna help our chances...

School Board Election Redux

In case you were all hoping you had heard the last of the School District #15 politics, it ain't over yet. Today is the revote for the budget that was voted down in last month's elections. Basically, if the budget gets voted down, the district automatically switches over to a contingency, or 'austerity' budget. So the Board has, for the first time in School Board history, proposed a budget that is actually less than the contingency budget would be. While at first glance that seems a prudent budget to approve, this Q & A flyer circulated by the budget's opponents explains things a bit more clearly:
Important Questions About the June 15th Budget Revote:
Q: Why vote NO if the budget is below contingency (austerity) level, and appears to save taxpayers money?
A: This is the first budget revote in the history of the Lawrence School District where the proposed budget amount is less than contingency. Although this unprecedented gesture appears to save the taxpayers $1,000 out of a proposed $88 million budget, the sad reality is that it opens the door to spending millions and millions more. This is because a passed budget removes the state's fiscal controls that keep the School Board's expenditures in check. Clearly, a contingency budget offers the advantages to the taxpayers and provides for the educational needs of the District's children. Voting NO is the only fiscally prudent choice that provides for all.

Q: How are the schools actually affected by contingency?
A: When the District is in contingency, the Board is permitted to use funds for those "expenses deemed to be absolutely necessary to operate and maintain schools". That requires the Board to make a case by case determination before each expenditure. When the Board is not in contingency, it gains the flexibility to grant salary increases, increase fringe benefits, and make unecessary purchases, all of which do not benefit the schools or children. For example of such purchases, see the NYS Auditor's Report regarding the software purchased by the Board for $313,448, but never used, and the 33 Palm Pilot purchased by the Board for $32,737 - most remain unopened and the rest unaccounted for.

Another wrinkle in all of this is that a NYS Comptroller's Audit Report on the District's finances was just released, and it found many examples of fiscal irresponsibility and lack of controls. From the same flyer:
Q: What does the NYC Comptroller's Audit Report indicate about the Board's use of taxpayers funds?
A: While District officials are quick to point out that the Audit does not single out anyone as individually responsible for criminal wrongdoing, the Auditor's Report stresses how irresponsible the School Board and Administration are and that they fail to maintain necessary fiscal management and critical internal controls. In addition, the Administration has not performed essential bookkeeping, and has neglected to reconcile monthly balances, which have resulted in unresolved monthly discrepancies as high as $1.1 Million. Is that the way you want your checkbook balanced?

I will be voting NO on the budget today. For any fellow SD #15 readers out there, I encourage you to do the same.
Related: I, II, III, IV, V

More Outrage

Miriam has been updating on this story that I wrote about a while back. I find it difficult to comment on this without getting riled up, so just hop over to Bloghead to read what Miriam has to say. I concur wholeheartedly with everything she says on the topic.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

C.T.O.T.D. (Chaptzem Title of the Day)

That's right, people! It's time for the Chaptzem title of the day again. This ones so good, I had to add the body of the post too:

A cop hits a car while driving and eating soup.
The cop was in middle of eating soup when he ran a red light and hit a car.
The cop did not have any lights or siren on.
You can see the soup container under the car in the first picture.
The Police Officers refused to take down the story of the other car, (who happens to be the Rachmestrifka Rebbe's Gabbe), in the police report.
The 66th Precinct refused to comment on the accident when contacted, and tried avoiding any questions.

(click link for pics!)

Mr. Pot Calling the Kettle

Gary Rosenblatt's editor's column in this week's Jewish Week made me laugh out loud. He writes about journalists' use of anonymous sources, apropos news of Deep Throat's identity and the Newsweek kerfuffle. In his words:
In a perfect world, newspapers should never publish anonymous quotes. But in reality, circumstances sometimes dictate that people with important information to impart have good reason to want to remain unnamed because to go public would jeopardize their careers, or even their lives.

Sometimes, though, sources will want to speak off the record for less noble reasons. They may want to take a cheap shot at a rival, or make an outrageous statement and not worry about suffering the consequences, or they may just be too intellectually lazy to be prepared to back up their comments. In the end, it comes down to a reporter’s judgment about whether the source can be trusted and whether that source’s reasons for wishing to remain in the shadows are justified.

In case you need to be reminded, we journalists make mistakes, not only in reporting facts but in evaluating people’s character and motives.

There are times when we at this newspaper have persuaded people who insisted they would only talk to us off the record to change their minds and go on the record. We may convince them that their quotes are key to a story’s credibility, or we may explain that we have others on the record, so there is some comfort in not being alone in speaking out, or we may ease their concerns about being misquoted by checking their quotes with them before publication.

There are other times we have opted, in the end, not to publish a story because it lacked sufficient credible sourcing.

All well and good. Except for the minor fact that Gary Rosenblatt is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to the use of anonymous sources.The cover story in this week's issue of his paper is rife with anonymous sources, unfounded allegations, and innuendo. It has to be one of the best examples of shoddy journalism I've ever seen. And this story is just indicative of his usual style of "reporting". The sanctimonious tone he takes toward other journalists is just too funny, considering his own hypocrisy. Before you worry about cleaning house at other publications, Mr. Rosenblatt, how about you work on cleaning your own glass house?

Chaptzem Title of The Day

It's a little early for tomorrow's title of the day, but it was too good to wait:

New child molester on the loose in Boro-Park

I have to ask, how many old ones are out there?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Dumb Move

So much is being made of John Kerry's grades from Yale, which he just released for the first time, along with his Navy records. The fact that his grades were lower than GWB's seems to be what the GOP'ers are all crowing about. What I can't understand is why it took him so long to release these transcripts. Part of what the public found so off-putting about Kerry, according to polls, was his perceived air of superior intellectualism. This information about his grades at Yale could only have helped his image.

What I REALLY can't understand is why it took Kerry so long to release his Navy records. When the Swift Boats Vets started in on Kerry, the best thing for him to have done would have been to release these records, as he was being called on by everyone to do. Instead, he dug in, stubbornly refusing to give in. This fueled claims by his opponents that he had something to hide in these records. He went on to lose the election. Now, the records show that his military career was as distinguished as he claimed it was, with no bombshells hidden in the file. Stupid move. Whoever advised Kerry not to release those records probably cost him the election.

New Feature

I think I'm going to make this a new OrthoMom feature. The Chaptzem Blog post title of the day.

Mexican construction worker falls through floor in Heimishe renovation

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Superstitious Starlet

Apparently, her fixation with Kabbalah has Demi Moore worried about ayin hara. Rumor has it that she's pregnant, but keeping it quiet on advice from the Kabbalah Center's illustrious Rabbi Berg. So I guess thanks to Kabbalah, Demi's like a regular Five Towns Orthodox mom, hiding morning sickness and a bulge from all her closest friends and neighbors. She's even got it down to the twenty-something father.

Bad Polls

Great Title

A post title from the Chaptzem blog:
Shiksa snatches hat of Heimishe lady
'Nuff said.


Yeah, I mean, I do think it's a bit insensitive to have the guy who was convicted for criminal negligence in helping to cause the death of four Australian athletes and injuring 70 in the bridge collapse at the 1997 Maccabiah games to be reinstated as member of the Maccabiah World Union Executive.

And I don't blame the Australian delegation one bit for not wanting to stay in the Maccabiah Village that this guy is managing.

The MWU is not even trying to defend itself:

Neither Maccabi World Union nor Yoram Eyal responded to Anglo File's questions regarding Eyal's participation in the opening ceremony of the 17th Maccabiah in July. "It's a very sensitive issue and we have decided not to give a response," is all that MWU spokesperson Yonat Zwebner said.
Said the head of the Australian delegation:
The way we see it, it's like putting a convicted bank robber in charge of the bank. We don't want him to be destitute, but it's a bit obscene to have him back involved in an event for which he was found to be criminally negligent. It's so obvious that the guy shouldn't be there, it's almost incomprehensible.
It most certainly is.


Last week saw a landmark ruling by a French court finding that the French newspaper "Le Monde" is guilty of "racist defamation" toward Israel and the Jewish people. From the European WSJ :
Press freedom is a value to be cherished, but not exploited and abused. In general, European countries have strict laws against such abuse and Europe's mainstream media are in any case usually good at exercising self-censorship. Responsible journalists strenuously avoid libelous characterizations of entire ethnic, national or religious groups. They go out of their way, for example, to avoid suggesting that the massacres in Darfur, which are being carried out by Arab militias, in any way represent an Arab trait.

The exception to this seems to be the coverage of Jews, particularly Israeli ones. This is particularly ironic given the fact that Europe's relatively strict freedom of speech laws (compared to those in the U.S.) were to a large extend drafted as a reaction to the Continent's Nazi occupation. And yet, from Oslo to Athens, from London to Madrid, it has been virtually open season on them in the last few years, especially in supposedly liberal media.
Grotesque and utterly false comparisons such as these should have no place in reporting or commenting on the Middle East.
Read the full article for some particlarly egregious examples of anti-Israel bias in the European press. Wondering why we haven't been reading about this too much? You're not alone.
Yet although the French court ruling -- the first of its kind in Europe -- is a major landmark, no one in France seems to care. The country's most distinguished newspaper, the paper of record, has been found guilty of anti-Semitism. One would have thought that such a verdict would prompt wide-ranging coverage and lead to extensive soul-searching and public debate. Instead, there has been almost complete silence, and virtually no coverage in the French press.

And few elsewhere will have heard about it. Reuters and Agence France Presse (agencies that have demonstrated particularly marked bias against Israel) ran short stories about the judgment in their French-language wires last week, but chose not to run them on their English news services. The Associated Press didn't run it at all. Instead of triggering the long overdue reassessment of Europe's attitude toward Israel, the media have chosen to ignore it.

I'm not sure that this ruling will make much of a dent in the anti-Israel bias we see from the European media. But I guess it's a start.


This story is really quite shocking. German health experts, who have downplayed the dangers of smoking, have been taking secret kickbacks from the tobacco industry for years. These "health experts" were such strong opponents of the anti-smoking lobby, that at least one of them equated the anti-smoking lobby to nazism.
...Four of the country's top medical research scientists had received millions of Deutschmarks for publishing biased reports about smoking during the 1980s and early 1990s. ...the four were funded for years by the German Association of Cigarette Manufacturers, mainly via innocuous-sounding medical foundations in an attempt by the industry to play down the dangers of smoking.Professor von Troschke was said to have received more than DM700,000 for publishing his research, which included a report entitled the "psycho-sociological uses of smoking" in which he dismissed claims that smoking was addictive.
[one was] described as an active opponent of discrimination against smokers who used a caricature of a smoker with a "sort of Jewish star" pinned on his breast to illustrate the "pogrom-mentality" of the anti-smoking lobby.
The German branch of the WHO said the close relationship between health experts and the tobacco industry had effectively blocked attempts to curb smoking in Germany for the past two decades.

This stuff makes the U.S. Tobacco Lobby look like amateurs.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Nice Thought

Terrible to say, but my cynicism generally dictates that I rarely feel when I walk away from a shiur that I've had any sort of epiphanies. I heard something yesterday, though, that I think everyone can take through life with them. I'm sure many of you have heard this before, but here goes. We generally interpret the verse from Pirkei Avot "V'hevei dan et kol ha-adam l'kaf zechut", to mean judge EVERY man favorably. However, the Sfat Emet interprets "kol adam" to mean "the whole person". Thus suggesting that even if you find fault with a person's individual traits, try to view all the person's traits together before you start to nitpick or argue about one shortcoming or another. I don't know about you, but I feel that this thought can help tremendously with both professional and personal relationships.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Suing Students

I've posted about the litigiousness of our society before, but you really must read this to believe it. Students are suing over being passed over for valedictorian.
The single-valedictorian tradition is also being endangered by lawsuits. In 2003, Brian Delekta, who narrowly missed having the highest G.P.A. in his class, sued his school district, near Port Huron, Michigan, asking that he be credited with an A-plus, instead of an A, for a work-study class that he took at his mother’s law firm. (In addition, Delekta asked for a restraining order on the publication of class rankings.)
In another case that year, Blair Hornstine, a senior at Moorestown High School, in New Jersey, and the daughter of a New Jersey superior-court judge, sued the local board of education to be named the school’s sole valedictorian; she also asked for two hundred thousand dollars in compensatory damages and more than two million dollars in punitive damages.

I couldn't make this stuff up. Luckily, I don't even have to try.

More Yeshiva Rants

In a follow-up to my rant about my kids' school, I have another good one.

I understand that my kids' Yeshiva will not take a position on Zionism, and therefore do not send a delegation to the Israeli Day Parade. I don't even expect them to give the kids a day off from school to attend. But I DO have a problem with their scheduling a play, that parents and grandparents are expected to attend, on the Sunday of the parade. Fine, make the decision that the students who attend your Yeshiva will not be attending the parade. But why make that decision for everyone else in their families?

The interesting wrinkle is, I'm not even sure the Yeshiva was aware that there WAS a parade today when they originally scheduled the event. I don't even think that the parade is on the Yeshiva's radar.

What I can't figure out is, does that mitigate the crime, or make it worse?

Update: Those who were present reported that the play ended early enough for the attendees to make it to the parade if they so desired. No word, though, on how many parents from the Yeshiva actually went, but that is a rant best left for another day.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Genetic Link?

Apparently, a team of scientists have published a paper proposing that a group of genetic diseases common in Jews of Ashkenazic origin can be linked to a higher intellectual ability in the same population.
In describing what they see as the result of the Ashkenazic mutations, the researchers cite the fact that Ashkenazi Jews make up 3 percent of the American population but won 27 percent of its Nobel prizes, and account for more than half of world chess champions...The researchers have identified two reasonably well accepted issues, the puzzling pattern of diseases inherited by the Ashkenazi population and the population's general intellectual achievement.

Interesting. But as Steven Pinker, a cognitive scientist at Harvard states in the article:
It would be hard to overstate how politically incorrect this paper is.

Obesity Epidemic

A headline from today's New York Times:

C.D.C. Team Investigates an Outbreak of Obesity

How does obesity spread exactly? And does anyone know the incubation period? I sat next to someone obese on the train yesterday, and I just want to know when I'm in the clear.

(And just in case anyone has their sarcasm meter disabled, I'm not making fun of the obese, just the CDC.)

Weak Defense

Donald Rumsfeld, in defending the military's actions in Guantanamo Bay, and decrying Amnesty International's comparison of it to the Gulag, said:
''To date there have been approximately 370 criminal investigations into the charges of misconduct involving detainees"
Um, wasn't this supposed to be a DEFENSE of the troops at Gitmo? Is it just me, or is that NOT something to be proud of?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

No Problem

The Town Crier is complaining about the selection of Governor Pataki to lead the delegation at this year's OSCE conference on Anti-Semitism. He of course puts the blame squarely on the Bush administration, for "proving once again that apparantly in the Bush administrations eyes there is no one in the entire Federal, executive and legislative branch of the United States government worthy of wasting their time at an international conference on Anti Semitism." The Crier also feels that it is "troublesome how the administration consistently sends a New Yorker to represent the US government at high profile international events of impoirtance to the Jewish Community. First it was Giuliani at the OSCE conference, then Ed Koch Last year. Most recently, the Yad Vashem dedication in Jerusalem had over 50 forein heads of state or their foreign ministers, but the US sent Mike Bloomberg. Now it is George Pataki's turn to represent Hymie Town."

I fail to see the problem here.

A few points:

Pataki is from a European immigrant family.

New York is an area with more Jews than anywhere else. It is also the most ethnically diverse place on Earth. The Governor was in office during the attacks on 9/11, and got to see first hand the dangers of intolerance.

Police and security are necessary outside every shul and temple in Europe. This is not necessary in New York, we can obviously teach the Europeans something about security.

Pataki enacted the landmark Hate Crimes Act of 2000. He obviously has quite a bit of experience with battling Anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and intolerance.

I can certainly understand the Crier's motivations for attacking most of the decisions that the Bush Administration makes. But I don't understand his attacking this one.

Christian Crusade

Does anyone else find the fact that Billy Graham termed this tour his"New York Area Crusade" a bit disturbing? At the very least, the term "Crusade" is an unfortunate choice of words, in view of its historical connotations for Jews and Muslims. But I'm surprised more people haven't been bothered by this.


My talented pal AirTime started on a new venture: a series of magazine cover mock-ups that pay homage to Jewish bloggers that he reads. In a stunning development, I was on the cover of the first issue.
I'm lovin' it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Can You Believe This One?

Just take a look at this headline:

Man burns NIS 3m. in cash during fight with wife

This is something I could never see OrthoDad doing, no matter how infuriating I might get at times.


After I wrote this post, I got comments and emails exhorting me to consider that the men who are denying their wives gittin have legitimate grievances as well. And I was willing to admit that, though there is NEVER grounds for a man to deny his wife a get, there are always two sides to every story. However, this story is just galling. I don't know anything that could possibly mitigate the behavior of this man in question. The only thing more upsetting is the insensitivity of the judges involved in this woman's bais din. The husband apparently made granting his wife a get contingent on his child support debts being pardoned by the National Insurance Institute of Israel. When the debt was not pardoned, the judges apparently saw no point in showing up at the appointed time, as they did not expect the husband to grant the get. As the administrative head of the bais din said:

"... he did not understand why the woman expected a get before the debt had been taken care of, as stipulated in the agreement."

Can you belive this woman has such UNREALISTIC expectations?

Expensive Poverty

John Edwards (remember him?) writes a couple of fascinating posts over here. (Scroll down for the first post). He talks about the relatively high costs of being poor, and gives some great examples.
David Shipler, who recently joined me on a panel at UNC, tells a striking story about a single mother he met while researching his book, The Working Poor. She had no savings and low earnings, so she had to live in a drafty wooden house. This exacerbated her son's asthma. That led to two ambulance rides to the hospital. Those trips led to ambulance charges she couldn't pay. Those charges damaged her credit report. And so then she was denied a loan to buy a mobile home. That meant she had to stay in that drafty house—the house that contributed to her son's asthma attacks. And she had to buy a car from a sleazy dealership that charged her 15 percent interest.

As one little boy David met told his mother, “Being poor is expensive.”

That boy was right on. The Brookings Institution recently released a fascinating study demonstrating how low-income families pay more for all sorts of things. They pay more for groceries and gasoline. They pay more for furniture and appliances. They pay higher prices for insurance and for utilities. And—something that has troubled me for a long time—they pay more for financial services, whether it’s cashing a check or getting a loan.

Here are a couple of examples: In Philadelphia, where the study was conducted, the annual cost of insuring the exact same car and driver, with a perfect driving record, is over $400 more in a neighborhood where the average income is less than $30,000 than it is in a neighborhood with a average income over $70,000.

And even in Pennsylvania, a state with a payday lending ban, providers of short-term loans exploit loopholes to charge annual percentage rates over 450 percent.

I can think of a few examples of my own, like the well off having enough in the bank for overdraft protection, and therefore not having to pay for bounced checks, having new cars that don't need constant repairs, having transportation options to travel to stores with the best prices, and so on.

Interesting reading.